How to watch the Olympics without cable

64 Comments will stream 3,500 hours of live coverage from London, but only to viewers that can authenticate themselves as pay TV subscribers of one of 97 pay TV service providers. In addition, users must subscribe to a bundle that contains both CNBC (s CMCSK) and MSNBC. Most people should meet that requirement, but subscribers of analog basic cable, as well as cord cutters, have to look elsewhere.

Some viewers might be tempted to start searching for unlicensed streams – but chances are, many of those will be shut down minutes after they pop up. Luckily, there are plenty of legal ways to watch the Olympics, be it on your TV or on your iPad.’s one-time pass: Users who do have a pay TV subscription, but simply can’t find their credentials in time before the competition of their choice starts are getting a break from NBC in the form of a one-time pass. Selecting this option will give you access to a total of four hours of live streaming, after which you’ll have to authenticate. Just beware, this ain’t roll-over minutes: Your pass will expire at noon if you request it at 8 a.m., regardless of whether you keep watching or not. The one-time pass is available both on as well as through NBC’s Olympics apps.

Want to learn more about watching sports, and other TV programming, without paying for cable? Then check out our e-book Cut the Cord: All You Need to Know to Drop Cable.

Free over-the-air TV: Want to watch the Olympics on TV, but don’t have cable? No worries, most the major competitions are going to be broadcasted by NBC, which can be watched for free, in HD, with a simple antenna. The broadcaster will show a total of 272.5 hours hours of footage from the games, with coverage beginning on weekdays at 10a.m. PT / ET, and on weekends at 5a.m. PT / ET. Check for a more detailed schedule.

But wait, that’s not all: Spanish-language broadcaster will also offer 173 hours of coverage of the Olympic games, and can be received for free over the air as well. Check for a more detailed schedule.

To learn how to access over-the-air programming with a simple rabbit-ear antenna, check out this video:

Don’t have a TV in your office or want to watch Olympics programming on the go? There are several ways to do this without relying on NBC’s authenticated streams as well:

Aereo: Viewers in New York can subscribe to Aereo to watch NBC on their iPad or PC. A subscription costs $12 a month after a free trial, but sign up is limited. For more on Aereo, check out our previous coverage.

Slingbox: You can also stream live broadcast TV to your office PC or mobile device with a Slingbox, but this solution isn’t exactly cheap: The Slingbox Pro HD, which is the only model currently on sale that works with an antenna, sells for around $240.

A TV tuner: Much cheaper than a Slingbox is to simply get a USB TV tuner for your PC. That way, you’ll be able to watch the Olympics on your laptop where ever you are, and some devices, like the Mac-only EyeTV, even make it possible to leave your computer at home and stream directly to your iPad(s AAPL) or iPhone. Check out a demo of the EyeTV One tuner below:



Why do people often forget to include satellite TV as one of the pay TV forms?

Kyle Moulder

If you’re not in the US, has a nice guide with each country’s official live stream (apparently incl. over 150 countries). Could be useful for international viewers or someone with som VPN knowledge.


Alright, I found a very simple way onto the BBC’s website.

Install a plug-in for Firefox of Chrome called ‘Stealthy’, it’s just an automated Proxy manager and it works pretty well. In the options, just set it to custom country and enter the United Kingdom. Turn it on, go to the BBC’s website and you’re golden.

It’s still a proxy so things load pretty slow. The streams occasionally error out. But their coverage is very complete and the streams are pretty solid, once they get going.



Anyone using StreamVia w/aereo domestically? How does aereo go about their geolocation restriction once you wrangle an invite? Is it just IP based? Anyone know?


Also, if you go the OTA HDTV route, use this website:

to figure out which stations you’ll be able to pull in and which direction to point your directional antenna. (I use Terk’s $100 HDTvo and a Silicon Dust HD HomeRun, which is a box that sits on your network and turns the OTA HDTV into a network stream. It comes in a few flavors, the single tuner version being fairly affordable and a great investment long term.) This gets me excellent reception of all the major broadcast networks in the middle of L.A. despite being lower than most of the neighboring buildings. (~80% signal strength, plenty).


Here’s what the article doesn’t tell you: USB stick + EyeTV is a computer-based PVR (aka DVR). There are a number of other free options (MythTV being the big kid on the block for the more technically inclined), and commercial products. You can record NBC’s OTA HDTV broadcast and then play it back whenever. If your computer is of any recent vintage, it will have either DVI video + analog audio, or full HDMI out. Run a cable from your computer to your TV. If you have a PC with a discrete graphics card (i.e. not video chips on the motherboard) then you probably have dual video outputs. Connect your TV and monitor at the same time. Check out the Windows display control panel, and you’ll see that under “multiple displays” you can select “duplicate these displays,” setting both to 1920×1080 (or 720 if that’s all your TV does.) Mirroring the displays makes it even easier. Get things going on the PC, then turn off the monitor and watch the TV.

Alternatively, put the recorded files into a shared folder and use a network enabled BR player or game console etc to play back the recordings.

Alina NY

Watch Olympic Game for FREE!!! It is russian website! Hope you will enjoy it!

Alina NY

Free!!!!!Watch Olympic Game without Cable!

James Redding

I have TV w/ over the air. The problem I have is that the “important” events are the only ones shown. There is only so much running, swimming, and volleyball a person can stand! I want to watch events like Judo, Archery, shooting, etc… What makes the others that much more important?

Thomas Condon

Yeah, he may have ZERO information…. but doesn’t he have a REALLY COOL NAME?!!!

I mean::Janko!!! Roettgers!!!


doesn’t he have a REALLY COOL NAME?!!!

I mean::Thomas!!! Condon!!!


This is so stupid. i don’t watch tv enough to buy a cable subscription and now i can’t watch the olympics. i like a few events but i’m not going to dish out $ for my 3 events that i can wait and see the results of in a few hours. it’s all about nbc making money.


NBC ruined the olympics. Greedy bastards. There’s so much revenue they could be getting with streaming + commercials, but they want to force us to subscribe to a TV package because they get more $ from the telecom companies in those deals. For shame NBC. Please never do the olympics again.


Interesting to see that the tech people think the world revolves around them. Well it doesn’t and they are in the vast minority. I found this article *quite* helpful, not having any cable myself. Thank you.


Thanks Janko! Can’t wait to read the rest of your tech savvy articles like how to “How to turn a computer on using your fingers” and “Adjusting the volume of your car stereo”

Janko Roettgers

Tod, I appreciate your input… but let me ask you something: How many people in your extended family know about HD over-the-air TV? How many of them know that it would get them major sporting events like the Olympics? And how many know how cheap it is to buy an antenna and just give it a try?


The Olympics has more or less just become a money-making venture. I’m sick of it. It’s way too commercial. I’ve given up. I’m not even interested in watching any longer.

Not that it would be easy. I don’t have cable and can’t seem to get my TV to tune into NBC. (I live in a big old brick apt bldg in NYC that seems to block the signal.)


What a VPN does is route your internet through your country of choice. In this case it would be the UK.

1. Sign up with a VPN

2. Choose a UK connection

3. Connect

4. Enjoy all the events through the BBC’s website.


Can I sign up for a UK vpn without being able to verify UK residency? The BBC site indicates that my vpn application will be denied if I cannot so validate?


What a lame article! I do have a Tv (rabbit antenna) and an ipad but I dont have a tv subscription. I was hoping they could shed some light as to how to watch the olympics without a tv subscription. They didnt deliver on that. LAME!


Their deliverable was “how to watch the Olympics without cable”. They delivered that. Try refining your search if you want something more specific.

in us

Excellent, works perfect, price is reasonable. Watching all the BBC iPlayer stuff on my laptop. Only used the DNS option after the proxy one was annoying.
I have set the DNS locally on the properties of my wireless networks. Ideally should move that to teh home router such that I can watch this from any device. Maybe would attempt that later on.

Chizzle Moore

Agreed this article is lame I thought it would actually help to give us non-cable users some good options. WRONG


get an antenna for your tv, just like the article said! you guys are pathetic.

Normal people

Then get a job, stop buying crack and get a TV and afford to buy cable. Stop complaining about what you don’t have.


I have a 12 inch TV and an antenna but I live in a small city that does not have any major networks. So what is your suggestion for people with TV antennas that only get two stations: qubo and RetroTV? I do not have money for cable.

Jenna Phillips

Wrong: I just bought a $70 digital antenna , and a TV at Best Buy and have no NBC … this is a terribly misleading article that just wasted my afternoon, and am now going to return the tv an antenna. this article should be removed from the website.

Janko Roettgers

Jenna, as the embedded video points out: Your mileage with antennas may vary, and depends on where you live. But before you return your new purchase: Do you get no channels at all, or just not NBC?


Stupid article had me excited but told me what I already knew. NBC basic coverage only covers the main sports like soccer and swimming and gymnastics. What I want to watch is Judo and Archery and Shooting and Table Tennis. If your going to tell people what they already know, at least warn them first.


Telemundo is the spanish broadcaster. Watched some of the soccer games yesterday and they were live staring at 4am.

Another “option” is using a proxy and watching the Olympics through BBC’s website (UK) :)


How do you use a proxy? I went to BBC but saw no way to access video coverage.


Yeah, I was trying this but I couldn’t find a proxy server that worked for this.


This was a horrible article. If one is duped into reading it because they are not a cable owner and watn to know how to watch the olympics, it gives them NO helpful information as to how to do that, only ways to still watch the Olympics through cable services or in ways they should already be smart enough to do (i.e. watch basic NBC for coverage) and thus are not the reasons they came to this article.


Sharon Gayle

I agree. Really what I want isn’t a live stream… I want to be able to watch what I missed when I got home. I don’t have cable or Dtv. I DO have a TV but some people don’t… AT ALL… which is why I googled how to watch without TV.

In other word.s…. who is showing full coveraged includeing stuff you missed FOR FREE sheesh.
– Sharon

Matthew Spoor

Yes Janko Roettgers. We blame you for a crappy article. The fact that you try to blame multiple readers’ displeasure on the route through which they arrived at your article tells me all I need to know about you as a “journalist” or whatever you call yourself.


i totally agree. just one other error to point out: the eye-tv is not “mac-only”, it works on windows systems as well.

Janko Roettgers

You are right, EyeTv hardware works with Windows PCs as well, but the EyeTV software, which allows users to stream live and recorded programming to iPads and iPhones, is Mac only. And the streaming functionality waas kind of the point of why I included it.

Phil Schiller

This article had exactly the information I was looking for. Thanks!


I too agree. No, Janko we are upset because we read an article titled “How to watch the Olympics without cable” & the only help really was the 4 hour pass which most people looking already saw. Half the article was about watching the Olympics while not at home. Which I guess would have been a more appropriate title


Actually Janko the title of your article is “How to watch the Olympics without cable. Thus you should tell me how to watch the Olympics without cable. Google sent me to this article because your title is pretty much exactly what I searched for. People are irritated because your title is misleading. We want to know how to watch without cable at all – and in my case i don’t have a TV at all and never have. I don’t need to watch it in real time, I only want to watch occasional things not the whole olympics, and I’m not going to pay for a service to watch the occasional soccer game or fencing match that looks worth it. It’s not google that was misleading, it’s you that misled google which subsequently misled us.

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